Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) online

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the intelligence to the family.

Dr. ^lay had few doubts that the robbers must have
entered by the passage window, and meeting resistance from
Leonard, must have dragged him out, and perhaps tlirown
him from it, then having gone on to their murderous work in
the old man's sitting-room. In that great rambling house,


where the maids slept afar off, and the rats held nightly
gambols, strange noises were not likely to be observed ; and
the thought of Leonard lying stunned and insensible on the
grass, made the doctor's pace almost a run, as if he were
hastening to the rescue.

When Mr. Ward sent down word that he was not up, Dr.
May replied that he must see him in bed, and followed upon
the very heels of the messenger, encountering no amiable
face, for Henry had armed himself for defence against any
possible reproaches for his treatment of any patient. Even
when Dr. May began, " Henry, my poor fellow, I have frightful
news for you," his mouth was opening to reply, " I knew we
should lose that case," let the patient be who he might, when
the few simple words put to flight all petulant jealousy, and
restored Henry Ward to what he had been when in his
hour of sickness and affliction he had leant in full confidence
on Dr. May's unfailmg kindness.

He was dressed by the time the brougham was at the door,
and w^ould have hurried off without telling his sister of the
alarm ; but Dr. May, knowing that the town must soon be
ringing with the news, was sending him to Averil's room,
when both rejoiced to see Mary enter the house. Charging
her to keep Averil quiet, and believe nothing but what came
from themselves, they thrust on her the terrible commission
and hastened away, dwelling on the hope that every moment
might be important.

Old Hardy had already mounted his cart horse, and for
him farm roads so shortened the distance, that he received
them at the entrance of the courtyard, which was crowded
with excited gazers and important policemen.

"Found him?" was the instantaneous question of both ;


but Hardy shook his head so sadly, that the Doctor hastily
exclaimed, "What then?"

" Sir," said Hardy very low, and with a deprecating look,
" he did go up by the mail train to London last night — got in
at Blewer Station at 12,15. They have telegraphed up,

" I'll lay my life it is all a mistake," said T)r, ^May, grasp-
ing Henry's arm as if to give him support, and looking him
in the face as though resolved that neither should be cast

" That's not all, sir," added Hardy, still addressing himself
to the elder gentleman. "There's his rifle, sir,"

" Why^ he was not shot !" sharply cried Dr, May. " You
told me so yourself.^'

" Xo, sir ; but — You'll see for yourseK presently !
There's the blood and grey hairs on the stock, sir."

*' !N"ever fear, Henry ; we shall see," said Dr. May, pressing
on, and adding as soon as they were out of hearing, " Xothing
those folks, even the best of them, like so well as la^-infij on
horrors thick enough."

A policeman stood at the house door to keep off idlers ;
but Dr. May's character and profession, as well as his muni-
cipal rank, caused way to be instantly made for them. They
found a superintendent within, and he at once began, " ^Nlost
unfortunate business, ]\Ir. Mayor — very mysterious ; " then,
as a sign from the doctor made him aware of Henry Ward's
near concern, he added, " Shall I inform young Mr. Axworthy
that you are here % "

" Is he come 1 "

" Yes, sir. He had only slept at the Three Goblets, not
half a mile across the fields, you know, Mr. Mayor — came

284 THE TrjAL.

home too late to disturb the house here, slept there, and was
on the spot at the first intelligence — before I was myself"
added the superintendent a little jealously.

" Where is he ? "

" In his room, sir. He was extremely overcome, and
retired to his room as soon as the necessary steps had been
taken. "Would you wish to see the room, sir? We are
keeping it locked till the inquest takes place ; but — "

Henry asked, "When?" his first word since his arrival,
and almost inarticulate.

He was answered that it would probably be at two that
afternoon ; the Whitford coroner had intimated that he was
ready, and the down train would be in by one. A telegram
had just arrived, reporting that the electric message had an-
ticipated the mail train, and that young Mr. Ward would be
brought down in time.

" JJ^ever mind, never heed, Henry," persisted Dr. May,
pressing the young man's arm as they proceeded to the door
of the sitting-room ; " he must be intensely shocked, but he
will ex]3lain the whole. Xay, I've no doubt we shall clear
him. His rifle, indeed ! I could swear to his rifle any^vhere."

The superintendent had by this time opened the door of
the sitting-room, communicating on one side with the office,
on the other with the old man's bed-room.

Except that the body had been carried to the bed in the
inner chamber, all remained as it had been found. There
were no signs of robbery — not even of a struggle. The
cushions of the easy chair still bore the impress of the sitter s
weight ; the footstool was hardly pushed aside ; the massive
library table was undisturbed ; the silver spoons and sugar-
tongs beside the tumbler and plate on the supper tray ; the


yellow light of the lamp still burnt ; not a paper was ruffled,
not a drawer pulled out. Only a rifle stood leaning against
the window shutter, and towards it both friend and brother
went at once, hoping and trusting that it would be a stranger
to their eyes.

Alas ! alas ! only too familiar were the rich brown mot-
tlings of the stock, the steel mountings, the eagle crest, and
twisted H. E. cypher ! and in sickness of heart the doctor
could not hide from himself the dark clot of gore and the
few white hairs adliering to the wood, and answering to the
stain that dyed the leather of the desk.

Henry could not repress an agonized groan, and averted
his face ; but his companion undaunted met the superinten-
dent's eye and query, " You know it, sir 1 "

" I do. It was my son-in-law's present to him. I wonder
where he kept it, for the ruffians to get hold of it."

The superintendent remained civil and impassive, and no
one spoke to break the deathly hush of the silent room, filled
with the appliances of ordinary business life, but tainted with
the awful unexplained mark that there had been the foot of
the shedder of blood in silence and. at unawares.

The man in authority at length continued, his piteous ex-
hibition. Dr. Eankin of AVhitford had arrived on the first
alarm ; but would not the gentlemen see the body 1 And he
led them on. Dr. IMay's eyes on the alert to seize on anything
exculpatory, but detecting nothing ; seeing only the unwieldy
helpless form and aged feeble countenance of the deceased,
and receiving fresh impressions of the brutality and cowardice
of the hand that could have struck the blow. He looked,
examined, defined the injury, and explained that it must
have caused instant death, thus hoping to divert attention


from his pale horror-stricken companion, whose too apparent
despondency ahnost provoked him.

At the doctor's request they were taken up the staircase
into the corridor, and shown the "vvdndow, which had been
found nearly closed but not fastened, as though it had been
partially shut down from the outside. The cedar bough
almost brushed the glass, and the slope of turf came so high
up the wall, that an active youth could easily swing himself
down to it ; and the superintendent significantly remarked
that the punt was on the farther side of the stream, whereas
the evening before it had been on the nearer. Dr. May leant
out over the window sill, still in the lingering hope of seeing
— he knew not what ; but he only became oppressed by the
bright still summer beauty of the trees and grass and sparkling
water, insensible of the horror that brooded over all. He
drew back his head j and as the door hard by was opened,
Leonard's little dog sprang from her basket kennel, wagging
her tail in hopes of her master, but in her disappointment
greeting one whom dogs alwaj^s hailed as a friend.

" Poor little doggie ! good little ^Nfab ! If only you could
tell us ! " and the creature fondly responded to his gentle
hand, though keej^ing aloof from Henry, in mindfulness of
past passages between them, while Henry could evidently not
bear to look at her.

They gazed round the room, but it conveyed no elucidation
of the mystery. There were Leonard's books in their range
on the drawers, his fossils in his cupboard, his mother's pho-
tograph on his mantel-piece, his sister's drawings on the wall.
His grey uniform lay on the bed as if recently taken off, his
ordmary office coat was folded on a chair, and he seemed to
have dressed and gone in his best clothes. "While anxiously


seeking some note of explanation, they heard a step, and Sam
Axworthy entered, speaking fast and low in apology for not
having sooner appeared, but he had been thoroughly upset ;
as indeed he looked, his whole appearance betrapng the dis-
order of the evening's dissipation, followed by the morning's

Most unfortunate, he said, that he had not returned earlier.
His friend Black — Tom Black, of Edsall Green — had driven
him home in his dog-cart, set him down at the turn to cross
the fields — moon as light as day — no notion of the lateness
tdl he got in sight of the great clock, and saw it was half past
twelve ; so knowing the early habits of the x>lace, he had
thought it best to turn back, and get a bed. at the Three Gob-
lets. If he had only come home, he might have prevented
mischief I There ensued a few common-place words on the
old man's infirm state, yet his independent habits, and reluc-
tance to let any servant assist him, or even sleep near liim.
Sam spoke as if in a dream, and was evidently so unwell,
that Dr. May thought it charitable to follow the dictates of
his own disgust at breaking bread in that house of horrors,
and refuse offers of breakfast He said he must go home,
but would return for the inquest, and asked whether Henry
would remain to meet his brother.

" Xo, no, thank you," said Henry huskily, as ^vith the
driest of throats, and a perceptible shudder, he turned to go
away ; the doctor pausing to caress little Mab, and say, " I
had better take home this poor little thing. She may come
to harm here, and may be a comfort to the sister."

Xo objection came from Sam, but !Mab herself ran back to
her house, and even snarled at the attempt to detach her from
it. "You are a faithful little beast," he said, "and your


master will soon be here to set all straight, so I wtH leave
you for the present ; " and therewith he signed farewell, and
breathed more freely as he gained the outer air.

" I'll tell you what, Henry," he said, as they drove out of
the courtyard, " we'll bring out Bramshaw to watch the case.
He will see through this horrible mystery, and throw the
suspicion in the right quarter, whatever that may be, depend
upon it."

Henry had thrown liimself back in the carriage with
averted face, and only answered by a groan.

" Come, don't be so downcast," said Dr. May ; " it is a
frightful affaii', no doubt, and Leonard has chosen a most
unlucky moment for this escapade; but he will have a
thorough warning against frolics."

" Frolics indeed ! " said Henr}^, bitterly.

" Well, I'll be bound that's all he has attempted, and it
has got him into a horrid scrape ; and ten to one but the
police have got the real ruffians in their hands by this time."

" I have no hope," said Henry.

" More shame for you not to feel a certain confidence that
He who sees all will show the right."

*' K ! " said Henry, breaking off with a sound and look of
such intense misery as almost to stagger the doctor himself,
by reminding him of Leonard's violent temper, and the cause
Henry had to remember his promptness of hand ; but that
Ethel's pupil, Aubrey's friend, the boy of ingenuous face,
could under any provocation strike helpless old age, or having
struck, could abscond without calling aid, actuated by terror,
not by pity or repentance, was more than Dr. May could
believe ; and after brief musing, he broke out in indignant


" I should have thought so. I wish I still could believe
so," sighed Henry ; " but — " and there they lapsed into
silence, till, as they came near the to"wn, Dr. ^lay offered to
set him doAvn at Bankside.

"Xo! no, thank you," he cried in entreaty. "I cannot
see her — Ave."

" Then come home with me. You shall see no one, and
you will look up when you are not faint and fasting. You
young men don't stand up against these things like us old

As the carriage stopped, several anxious faces were seen
on the watch, but the doctor signed them back till he had
deposited Henry in his study, and then came among them.

Gertrude was the first to speak- " papa, papa, what is
it ? " Mrs. Pugh has been here to ask, and Ethel won't let
me hear, though Tom and Aubrey know."

" I took refuge in your order to believe nothing till you
came," said Ethel, with hands tightly clasped together.

" It is true, then ? " asked Tom.

" True that it looks as bad as bad can be," said the doctor,
sighing heavily, and proceeding to state the aspect of the case.

" It is a trick — a plot," cried Aubrey passionately ; " I
know it is ! He always said he would run away if they tried
to teach him dishonesty ; and now they have done this and
driven him away, and laid the blame on him. Ethel, why
don't you say you are sure of it 1 "

" Leonard would be changed indeed if this were so," said
Ethel, trembling as she stood, and hardly able to speak

Aubrey broke out with a furious " If," very different from
Henry "Ward's.


" It would not be the Leonard we knew at Coombe," said
Ethel. " He might be blind with rage, but he would never
be cowardly. Xo. Unless he own it, nothing shall ever
make me believe it."

" Oavu it ! For shame, Ethel," cried Aubrey.

And even the doctor exclaimed, " You are as bad as poor
Henry himself, who has not got soul enough to be capable of
trusting his brother."

" I do trust," said Ethel, looking up. " I shall trust his
own word ; " and she sat down without speaking, and knitted
fast, but her needles clattered.

" And how about that poor girl at Bankside 1 " said the

"I went down there," said Tom, "just to caution the
serv^ants against bringing in stories. She found out I was
there, and I had to go in and make the best of it."

" And what sort of a best ? " said the doctor.

" Why, she knew he used to get out in the morning to
bathe, and was persuaded he had been drowned ; so I told
her I knew he was alive and well, and she would hear all
about it when you came back. I brought the youngest child
away with me, and Gertrude has got her up-stairs ; the other
would not come. Poor thing ! Mary says she is very good
and patient ; and I must say she was wonderfully reasonable
when I talked to her."

" Thank you, Tom," said his father with warmth ; " it was
very kind of you. I wonder if Ave knew anything of this
runaway business ; it might be the saving of him ! "

" I did," said Aubrey eagerly ; " at least, I know he said
he Avould not stay if they wanted to put him up to their dis-
honest tricks ; and he tallced of that very window ! "


" Yes, you imprudent fellow ; and you were telling Mrs.
Pugli so, if I hadn't stopped you," said Tom. " You'll be
taken up for an accomplice next, if you don't hold your

" What did he say 1 " asked the doctor, impatiently ; and
then declared that he must instantly go to Bankside, as soon
as both he and Henry had taken some food ; " for," he
added, " we are both too much shaken to deal rationally
with her."

Ethel started up in shame and dismay at having neglected
to order anything. The doctor was served in the study
alone with Henry, and after the briefest meal, was on his way
to Bankside.

He found Averil with the crimson cheek and beseeching
eye that he knew so well, as she laid her trembling hand on
his, and mutely looked up like a dumb creature awaiting a

" Yes, my dear," he said, tenderly, " your brother needs
prayer such as when we watched him last year ; he is in peril
of grave suspicion." And as she stood waiting and watching
for further explanation, he continued, " My dear, he told you
everything. You do not know of any notion of his of going
away, or going out without leave ? "

" Why is Leonard to be always suspected of such things ? "
cried Averil. " He never did them ! "

" Do you know 1 " persisted Dr. May.

** But you are mayor ! " cried Averil, indignantly, with-
drawing her hand. " You want me to accuse him ! "

" My dear, if I were ten times mayor, it would make no
difference. My jurisdiction does not even cross the river
here ; and if it did, this is a graver case than I deal with.



I am come, as his friend, to beg you to help me to account
for his unhappy absence in any harmless way. Were it
ever so foolish or wrong, it would be the best news that ever
I heard."

" But — but I can't," said Averil. " I never knew he was
going out ! I know he used to get out at the passage
window to bathe and fish before the house was astir — and —
you l-now he is safe, Dr. May 1 "

Dr. ]\Iay would almost sooner have known that he was at
the bottom of the deepest pool in the river, than where he
was. " He is safe, my poor child. He is well, and I trust
he will be able to prove his innocence ; but he must so
account for his absence as to clear himself. Averil, there is
a charge against him — of being concerned in your uncle's

Averil's eyes dilated, and she breathed short and fast,
standing Kke a statue. Little Minna, whom the doctor had
scarcely perceived, standing in a dark corner, sprang forward,
exclaiming, " Ave, don't be afraid ! Nobody can hui't him
for what he did not do ! "

The words roused Averil, and starting forward, she cried,
" Dr. May, Dr. May, you will save him ! He is fatherless
and motherless, and his brother has always been harsh tO'
him ; but you will not forsake him ; you said you would be
a father to us ! Oh, save Leonard ! "

" My dear, as I would try to save my own son, I will do
my utmost for him ; but little or nothing depends on me or
on any man. By truth and justice he must stand or fall ; and
you must depend on the Father of the fatherless, who seeth the
truth ! as this dear child tells you," with his hand on Minna's
head, "he cannot be really injured while he is innocent."


Awed into calm, Averil let him seat her beside him, and
put her in possession of the main facts of the case, Minna
standing by him, her hand in his, evidently understanding
and feeling all that passed.

Neither could throw light on anything. Leonard had been
less communicative to them than to Aubrey, and had kept
his resolution of uncomplainingly drinking the brewst he had
brewed for himself. All Averil could tell was, that her uncle
had once spoken to Henry in commendation of his steadiness
and trustworthiness, though at the same time abusing him
for airs and puppyism.

" Henry would tell you. "Where is Henry 1 " she added.

" In my study. He could not bear to bring you these
tidings. You must be ready to comfort him, Ave."

" Don't let him come," she cried. "He never was kind to
Leonard. He drove him there. I shall always feel that it
was his doing."

" Averil," said Dr. May gravely, " do you forget how much
that increases his suffering? Xothing but mutual charity
can help you through this fiery trial. Do not let anger and
recrimination take from you the last shreds of comfort, and
poison your prayers. Promise me to be kind to Henry, for
indeed he needs it."

" 0, Dr. May," said Minna, looking up with her eyes full
of tears, " indeed I "vvill. I was cross to Henry because he
was cross to Leonard, but I won't be so any more."

Ave drooped her head, as if it were almost impossible to
her to speak.

Dr. May patted Minna's dark head caressingly, and said to
the elder sister, " I will not urge you more. Perhaps you
may have Leonard back, and then joy will open your hearts ;



or if not, my poor Ave, the sight of Henry will do more than
my words."

Mary looked greatly grieved, but said nothing, only
following her father to take his last words and directions.
" Keep her as quiet as you can. Do not worry her, but get
out this root of bitterness if you can. Poor, poor things ! "

" That little Minna is a dear child ! " said Mary. " She
is grown so much older than Ella, or than she was last year.
She seems to understand and feel like a grown-up person. I
do think she may soften poor Ave more than I can ; but,
papa, there is excuse. Mr. "Ward must have made them
more miserable than we guessed."

" The more reason she must forgive him. 0, Mary, I fear
a grievous lesson is coming to them ! but I must do all I can.
Good-bye, my dear ; do the best you can for them ; " and he
set forth again with a bleeding heart.

At the attorney's office, he found the principal from home,
but the partner, Edward Anderson, on the qui vive for a
summons to attend on behalf of his fellow townsman, and
confident that however bad were the present aspect of affairs,
his professional eye would instantly find a clue.

Aubrey was in an agony of excitement, but unable to
endure the notion of approaching the scene of action ; and his
half-choked surly " Don't " w^as sufficient to deter his brother
Thomas, who had never shown himself so kind, considerate,
and free from sneer or assumption. In " hours of ease " he
might seem selfish and exacting, but a crisis evoked the latent
good in him, and drew him out of himself.

Nor would Henry return to Bankside. After many vacil-
lations, the moment for starting found him in a fit of despair
about the family disgrace, only able to beg that " the unhappy


boy " should be assured that no expense should be spared in
his defence ; or else, that if he were cleared and returned
home, his welcome should be most joyful. But there Henry
broke off, groaned, said they should never look up again, and
must leave the place.

Except for Averil's own sake. Dr. May would ahnost have
regretted his exhortations in favour of her eldest brother.

In due time the doctor arrived at the mill, where the inquest
was to take place, as the public-house was small, and incon-
veniently distant ; and there was ample accommodation in
the large rambling building. So crowded was the court-yard,
that the doctor did not easily make his way to the steps of
the hall door; but there, after one brief question to the
poHceman in charge, he waited, though several times invited im

Before long, all eyes turned one way, as a closed fly, with.
a policeman on the box, drove in at the gateway, stopped, and
between the two men on guard appeared a tall young figure.

The doctor's first glance showed him a flushed and weary
set of features, shocked and appalled ; but the eyes, looking
straight up in their anxiety, encountered his with an earnest
grateful appeal for sympathy, answered at once by a step
forsvard with outstretched hand. The grip of the fingers was
heated, agitated, convulsive, but not tremulous ; and there was
feeling, not fear, in the low husky voice that said, " Thank
you. Is Henry here ? "

"]S'o, he is too — too much overcome ; but he hopes to see
you at home to-night ; and here is Edward Anderson, whom
he has sent to watch the proceedings for you."

" Thank you," said Leonard, acknowledging Edward's greet
ing. " As far as I am concerned, I can explain all in a minute ;
but my poor uncle — I little thought — "


There was no opportunity for further speech in private, for
the coroner had already arrived, and the inquiry had been
only deferred until Leonard should have come. The jury had
been viewing the body, and the proceedings were to take
place in the large low dining-room, where the southern
windows j)oured in a flood of light on the faces of the persons
crowded together, and the reflections from the rippling water
danced on the ceiling. Dr. May had a chair given him near
the coroner, and keenly watched the two nephews — one seated
next to him, the other at some distance, nearly opposite.
Both young men looked haggard, shocked, and oppressed :
the eye of Axworthy was unceasingly fixed on an inkstand

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 21)